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10 Famous Cultural Anthropologists

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by: Melanie Winderlich
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Cultural anthropologists study how the traditions and customs of a culture, such as this Japanese tea ceremony, tell us about who we are.
Digital Vision/Thinkstock

While gathered at your family's dinner table, observing your relatives' fights, habits and terms of endearment, have you ever wondered, "Who are these people? Why does our family act like this?" These questions could lead you to a new career: cultural anthropology.

Boiled to its core, cultural anthropology (also known as social anthropology) involves the study of how humans live, function and interact with each other [source: AAA]. Experts in the field usually gather research and collect data by living among and interviewing subjects within specific cultures and regions. They can then contrast the culture and ideologies of these groups with their own or those of surrounding regions or other peoples from across the globe. In this way, we can all benefit from the firsthand research cultural anthropologists gather: how and why cultures develop differently among humans.

Many cultural anthropologists have made a name for themselves in the scientific community, as well as among everyday folk. Some served as pioneers, made startling discoveries, published controversial work and even applied their training to other fields.

In the next few pages, you'll meet some of the world's most famous cultural anthropologists, both past and present, and see why they stood out.

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